An Incomplete List of Chicago Civic Technology Groups

As part of our work, the Smart Chicago Collaborative makes a lot of introductions. Chicago has a deep bench of civic innovation talent with multiple organizations working in tandem to use the power of technology to help solve problems.  There are also a number of mailing lists and meetup groups that are in the civic innovation space. To help get people who are interested in the space more acquainted, we’ve put together a list of mailing lists, events, and resources for people who want to get more involved.

Englewood Codes

Demond Drummer gives out an award during Englewood Codes demo day

Mailing Lists:

These mailing lists will help connect you to a broad network of civic innovators.

Code for America Brigade

CfA Brigade Captain Meeting

Code for America Office, Photo by Burt Lum

This is the easiest way to get plugged into the national civic technology community. Once you join this google group, you’ll start getting emails from the CfA brigade community and can send out emails to the larger group. This group gets a LOT of traffic, and is a good way to see what’s going on.

FreeGeekChicago:

FreeGeek Chicago is a not-for-profit community organization that recycles used computers and parts to provide functional computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those who want them.

OpenGovChicagoland:

This Google Group contains hundreds of Chicagoland residents who have an interest in greater government transparency and civic innovation.

Chi Hack Night:

Subscribe to updates on upcoming Chi Hack Night speakers and events.

Meetups:

These meetings are open to the public and a great way to get involved in Chicago’s civic technology community.

OpenGovChicago-land

Julia Ellis of the Office of the Chicago City Clerk Addressing OpenGovChicago Meetup at the Chicago Cultural Center
Julia Ellis of the Office of the Chicago City Clerk Addressing OpenGovChicago Meetup at the Chicago Cultural Center

This Meetup is for citizens who are interested in seeing their federal, state, and local government function more efficiently and responsively. We are inspired by people who are actively building tools and experimenting with solutions along these lines, like the Sunlight Foundation (http://sunlightlabs.com/), and GovTrack (http://GovTrack.us). We believe that open source software practices and internet culture provide good examples of how people can work cooperatively on complex problems to produce meaningful results, but you don’t have to be a techie to be part of this meetup. Whether you are an activist or a government employee, or just a hacker looking for interesting projects, come to the Open Government Chicago group to meet other interested people and get involved in making things happen.

Chi Hack Night:

Come join a group of passionate folks working at the intersection of open government, cities, and technology. This is an evening of civic tech hacking, learning, and hanging.

Chicago City Data User Group

You don’t have to be a developer to use Chicago’s rich sets of data! The Chicago City Data users group is for end users, business users, enthusiasts, students, entrepreneurs, anyone interested in how to use City Data. Our goal to promote civic engagement, innovation, and economic opportunity leveraging The City of Chicago’s data.

Connect Chicago Meetup:

People who work to bring public computer centers, community technology centers, and digital literacy programs to the people of Chicago.

If you are part of a facility at http://locations.weconnectchicago.org, this group is for you.

FreeGeekChicago OpenHack

OpenHack is held every Saturday and offers a space to work on software projects with other hackers. Contribute to one of the Supreme Chi-Town Coding Crew projects or use our space to work on your own creation.

Maptime Chicago:

Maptime Chicago is an interactive place to learn about digital mapmaking and GIS in Chicago.

Organizations:

These organizations work at the forefront of civic innovation in Chicago.

Chicago Public Library

  • Led by Commissioner Brian Bannon
  • www.chipublib.org
  • Twitter: @ChiPubLIb

One of the first comprehensive technology training programs in the city, the CyberNavigators program at Chicago Public Libraries has led the way in bridging the digital divide in Chicago. The Chicago Public Library also boasts it’s own MakerLab complete with a 3D Printer.

City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology: 

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The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) was introduced in 2008 to add innovation to the charter of the former Department of Business and Information Services.

As the central information technology organization for the City, DoIT provides a number of technology and telecommunications services to departments, the Mayor, Aldermen, other city agencies, residents, businesses and tourists.

The Department of Innovation and Technology is also responsible for the city’s data portal.

Code for America:

Code for America is a 501(c)3 non-profit that envisions a government by the people, for the people, that works in the 21st century.

Our programs change how we participate in government by: Connecting citizens and governments to design better services, Encouraging low-risk settings for innovation; and, Supporting a competitive civic tech marketplace.

Data Analysts for Social Good

Data Analysts for Social Good is committed to providing the tools, resources, and community to help social sector professionals use research, data, and analytics think critically about social change.

Data Science for Social Good:

The Eric & Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good fellowship is a University of Chicago summer program for aspiring data scientists to work on data mining, machine learning, big data, and data science projects with social impact.

FreeGeekChicago

FreeGeek Chicago is a not-for-profit community organization that recycles used computers and parts to provide functional computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those who want them.

Knight Lab at Northwestern:

Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation and education. Developing ideas from experimentation through adoption, the Lab makes technology that aims to help make information meaningful and promotes quality storytelling on the Internet.

Alya Adamany Woods at Work
ISTC’s Alya Adamany Woods at 1871

Illinois Science and Technology Coalition

The Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC) harnesses the power of research and innovation to grow the state’s economy. We are a member-driven, non-profit entity that drives public-private partnerships between industry, research universities, federal labs and government to increase research and technology-based investment, talent, awareness and job growth in Illinois.

LISC Chicago

Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier. LISC has a number of programs that intersect in the civic innovation space including the Smart Communities Program and their OpenGov for the Rest of Us Program.

Open City Apps

OpenCity Apps is a volunteer civic apps team that creates apps with open data to improve transparency and understanding of our government.

Smart Chicago Collaborative

Smart Chicago is a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. We work on increasing access to the Internet, improving skills for using Internet, and developing meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life of residents in our region and beyond.

UI Labs

UI LABS is a Chicago-based research and commercialization collaborative, bringing Universities + Industries together to define problems, design partnerships and deliver scalable solutions to tomorrow’s most important challenges.

US Open Data Institute

Moving beyond the “Field of Dreams” model of releasing datasets, we’re matching data producers and consumers to create sustainable data ecosystems. We love government. We’re collaborating with local, state, and federal agencies (at no cost to them) to help them release data sets and promote their work. Before we even had a website, we had a GitHub repository. We’re creating, supporting, and promoting software essential to the open data ecosystem

Civic Startups:

Civic innovation in Chicago has reached a point where companies fueled by open data are being formed to provide tools and data that help tackle civic problems. Below are some of the companies that are based in Chicago.

AlderTrak

Insight every weekday on the actions and elections of the 50 aldermen, top city agencies, administrative commissions, their staff and more.

CivicArtworks

Civic ArtWorks makes neighborhood design more accessible than ever. Our online platform enables citizens to share new ideas and concerns about their community with their neighbors. We remove barriers and enable a fluid conversation between community members and our expert planning and design staff. We strive to build trust and encourage greater participation in order to generate a vision for the future that truly reflects the values of the community. This results in diagrams, plans, and illustrations that celebrate the community’s input, inspire continued action, and lead to successful implementation.

Chicago Cityscape

Chicago Cityscape is a tool that uses open data to show how, where, and when neighborhood development takes place. Chicago Cityscape was founded by Steven Vance to simplify finding building projects and the companies who do them using the city’s copious open neighborhood development data.

CivicWhitaker, Inc

CivicWhitaker, Inc  is a civic technology consulting firm based out of Chicago, Illinois specializing in project management, research and writing, digital storytelling event management and community organizing all in the civic technology space. Their biggest client is the Smart Chicago Collaborative which has been incubating the company.

DataMade

DataMade is a civic technology company. We work on projects that make open data, make open source software, and make people more powerful.

Our projects adhere to the Three Os.

  • Open data: The project uses data that is entirely open and free to use by anyone.
  • Open source: All apps and tools developed are open source and released under an unrestrictive license.
  • Open government: The project is civic-minded. It engages and informs citizens about their society, city, or government.

Everyblock

Everyblock’s goal is to help you be a better neighbor by giving you frequently updated neighborhood information, plus tools to have meaningful conversations with neighbors.

The site is simple to use: create an account and choose which places you’d like to follow — perhaps your home and your workplace. Your custom EveryBlock homepage will be updated throughout the day and show you what’s been happening near your followed places, plus what people in those places are talking about. Join in the neighborhood conversation when you’ve got something to contribute — a question for your neighbors, a news report, an event listing, or just a heads-up about something people in your neighborhood should know about.

Kalov Strategies

Kalov Strategies is a consulting firm headed by Josh Kalov. Kalov Strategies is working with the Smart Chicago Collaborative to help open up Cook County data.

mRelief:

mRelief simplifies the qualifying process with an easy-to-use form of 7.5 questions through our website application at mrelief.com and our SMS application at 773-377-8946. After the user fills out the necessary information, they are directed to community or government resources based on their eligibility indicators and zip code.

Purple Binder

Purple Binder helps healthcare providers, cities, and non-profit organizations connect people with the resources they need to thrive in their community. We collect community resource data and organize it into directories that stay up to date.

Public Good Software

Public Good Software, Inc was founded on May Day by Chicago startup vets Paul Smith, Dan Ratner, and Jason Kunesh along with fellow Obama for America 2012 alumni Chris Gansen & Aaron Salmon to help people working for the public good with great software. As one of the first Benefit Corporation software startups, we break new ground every day we roll up our shirtsleeves and get down to it.

Rob Paral and Associates

Rob Paral and Associates help organizations deepen relationships with their community.

We do this by providing new demographic, social and economic information, and by determining attitudes, experiences and program usage among the populations served by our clients.

OpenTech Strategies 

OpenTech Strategies work to support collaborative open technology ventures through project management, open source licensing, development strategy, developer coaching, release processes, RFP development and more.

SpotHero

SpotHero allows you to search and view available parking options in and around the cities. By reserving your parking online ahead of time through SpotHero, you know exactly how much you’re going to pay, and where you’re going to park. You can view city parking rates at different city parking garages on the map that are near the address you’re searching for.

(SpotHero was also the winner’s of Chicago’s Apps for MetroChicago Challenge)

Spott 

Get more out of your social network by finding the answers you need through the world around you.

  • Ask questions and share information with Spott’s helpful community using an intuitive location-based search.
  • Use your News Feed to browse what’s trending in your neighborhood, city, or any other place of interest.
  • Privacy is our priority. Spott does not reveal your current location or ask for personal information.

Resources: 

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Developer Resources: 

Smart Chicago Collaborative (SCC) supports development of innovative civic applications in many ways. In some projects, such as We Connect Chicago and Chicago Early Learning, SCC acts as a fiscal agent, managing development and funding sources. This arrangement allows Smart Chicago to hire top development talent, such as DataMade and Azavea, to tackle challenging civic problems. In other projects, SCC supports development by donating infrastructure resources. SCC maintains infrastructure on Amazon Web Services, Heroku, and Google Apps for Business.

How To Posts

What are we missing?

The civic innovation movement in Chicago is huge – if you see that we missed anyone please get in touch with us here.